Author Topic: Falcon 9 Reusable Payload to LEO  (Read 15451 times)

Offline corneliussulla

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Falcon 9 Reusable Payload to LEO
« on: 10/08/2011 02:22 PM »
I was watching Elon Musk recent presentation to the national press club about his exciting plans for a reusable rocket. In the presenation he mentioned that payload to space is currently around 2-4%.

Looking at the specs for the Falcon 9 it appears that the current version launchs 10,450 Kg to LEO and has a mass on the pad of 333,400 Kg. That is a payload percentage of   3.13%. The Falcon 9 heavy is 3.78% mass to orbit

With the development of the Merlin D i expect that the amount of mass to orbit shall increase for the existing Falcon 9.

My question is does anyone know if with development of the Falcon Heavy  will there be a new version extended of the Falcon 9 and what mass to orbit it would have and what would the mass to orbit be as a percentage.

With the new reusable version there appears to a fair bit of extra hardware. Landing gear, maneuvering rockets, Heat shields on Stage 2, extra strengthening of the  rockets body and spare fuel to maneuver and land.

If extended Falcon 9 had a non reusable mass to LEO of 16,000 Kgs i wonder what the F9 reusable mass to orbit would be. The dragon launch payload is  6000 Kg. So i suppose this is the minimum that they would like to achieve earth orbit with. That means that between the reauable and one of version EMusk would have 10,000 KG to orbit to play with. However as most of the mass isnt going to orbit i expect that the weight available for reusability would be significantly more than this.

Does anyone have a bit more detailed information or thoughts on this.

I must say Musk is genuinely creating the most interesting company or organisation involved in space. I hope he can get his hands on some of dept of defense budget for launching rockets to help spur on his innovation


Offline rmijic

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Re: Falcon 9 Reusable Payload to LEO
« Reply #1 on: 10/10/2011 04:23 PM »
The one thing that really surprises me about the Falcon 9 reusable is that all three stages have landing legs. You would think it would be better to just catch them in a net and ditch the legs! Especially the second stage landing legs, which are big and subtract directly off the payload mass. Probably about 250kgs for second stage legs and another 100 or so for for the dragon legs. That's what, a 7% payload increase straight away.

Overall, I don't know a good way to estimate how much all this weighs. I also don't know how to estimate what the probability of success is.

If they get this to work, we will see the dawn of the second space age. I think people don't grok how significant this will be if it works. Imagine if they just got to $500,000 per launch, which works out at $83 per kg to LEO. Mars and the asteroids start to look tempting at that price, don't they? Especially when China knocks it off and undercuts SpaceX at $40 per kg :D

Offline douglas100

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Re: Falcon 9 Reusable Payload to LEO
« Reply #2 on: 10/10/2011 08:26 PM »
Falcon 9 has only two stages. Dragon isn't a stage.

If they get it to work they may be able to reduce costs. This is not the same as "the dawn of the second space age."

The figure of $83 per kg to LEO is completely unrealistic.
Douglas Clark

Offline Comga

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Re: Falcon 9 Reusable Payload to LEO
« Reply #3 on: 10/10/2011 10:32 PM »
The one thing that really surprises me about the Falcon 9 reusable is that all three stages have landing legs. You would think it would be better to just catch them in a net and ditch the legs! Especially the second stage landing legs, which are big and subtract directly off the payload mass. Probably about 250kgs for second stage legs and another 100 or so for for the dragon legs. That's what, a 7% payload increase straight away.

Overall, I don't know a good way to estimate how much all this weighs. I also don't know how to estimate what the probability of success is.

If they get this to work, we will see the dawn of the second space age. I think people don't grok how significant this will be if it works. Imagine if they just got to $500,000 per launch, which works out at $83 per kg to LEO. Mars and the asteroids start to look tempting at that price, don't they? Especially when China knocks it off and undercuts SpaceX at $40 per kg :D

Welcome to the forum.

Please note that it is questionable protocol to include in your first post (or first 100 posts)  " I think people don't grok how significant this will be...".  You may want to reconsider what sounds like you telling people who have been discussing these topics for years, and some people who have been working the hardware and programatics for decades, how your insight is superior, although I trust that you did not mean to do that.   
What kind of wastrels would dump a perfectly good booster in the ocean after just one use?

Offline mlorrey

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Re: Falcon 9 Reusable Payload to LEO
« Reply #4 on: 10/11/2011 01:24 AM »

If they get this to work, we will see the dawn of the second space age. I think people don't grok how significant this will be if it works. Imagine if they just got to $500,000 per launch, which works out at $83 per kg to LEO. Mars and the asteroids start to look tempting at that price, don't they? Especially when China knocks it off and undercuts SpaceX at $40 per kg :D

Exactly, even if the landing equipment cuts payload in half, it will be well worth it, provided they can then exhibit a high sortie rate from quick turnarounds. The biggest chunk of operational costs is the standing army standing around between flights doing turnaround stuff. The more flights per worker = lower price per kg and higher profit.
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Offline corneliussulla

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Re: Falcon 9 Reusable Payload to LEO
« Reply #5 on: 10/11/2011 09:51 AM »
I think this initiative is probably the last hope for a step change for space exploration in the first half of this century. If you look at the past 50 years it started with the development of apollo which could launch 120 tonnes to orbit for around 1.5 billion dollars a flight. It ends with the development of a rocket which can launch 70 tonnes into orbit at 1 billion a flight.

the truth is in terms of capability we have made almost no progress. The SLS, should it ever be built, is going to cost 14,000 dollars a kilo into LEO. Now MUsk is offering a solution FH that will launch 2300 dollars a kilo. That is why I think after the election there is a chance that SLS will be cancelled.

Now if he only manages to get a ten to 1 reduction from his current costs. We could be looking at 250 dollars a kilo or 12.5 mill for a falcon heavy launch. That would be a huge achievement and would change completely what is economically doable in space for instance at10.1

Offline corneliussulla

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Re: Falcon 9 Reusable Payload to LEO
« Reply #6 on: 10/11/2011 09:55 AM »
For instance at 10.1 reduction in falcon 9 extended version could mean around 6 mill for 16 tonnes to orbit. I could easily imagine a Market for a vehicle to launch 20 people into orbit at a time for 300,000 dollars a piece. 100.1 would bring a ticket price down to 30,000 a ticket

Offline Jim

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Re: Falcon 9 Reusable Payload to LEO
« Reply #7 on: 10/11/2011 01:59 PM »
For instance at 10.1 reduction in falcon 9 extended version could mean around 6 mill for 16 tonnes to orbit. I could easily imagine a Market for a vehicle to launch 20 people into orbit at a time for 300,000 dollars a piece. 100.1 would bring a ticket price down to 30,000 a ticket

Wrong.  You are ignoring the cost of the manned spacecraft.  Also, 20 people is ludicrous, there is nothing for them to do.

Offline jimvela

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Re: Falcon 9 Reusable Payload to LEO
« Reply #8 on: 10/11/2011 02:23 PM »
Why are folks assuming that just because you land a 1st stage on legs that you can then turn around and fly it again the next day for little or no processing or cost?

The reality is that even with a fully intact first stage recovery, there will be significant processing required to refurb or requalify the stage for reflight.

It remains to be seen if the cost of preparing an intact stage for reflight would be more or less than the cost of integrating a new stage, or re-using portions of the recovered stage to fit out an incoming set of tankage and structure.

Recovering the stage is just one incremental step along the path to a reusable launch vehicle that would be operationally similar to an airliner.  It would be a big step forward, but only a step along a path to a reusable system.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Falcon 9 Reusable Payload to LEO
« Reply #9 on: 10/11/2011 02:38 PM »
Why are folks assuming that just because you land a 1st stage on legs that you can then turn around and fly it again the next day for little or no processing or cost?
It's not probably the case for the Falcon 9 first stage, but remember this was exactly the intent of the Lunar Lander Challenge (won by Armadillo Aerospace, Masten Space Systems, and nearly by Paul Breed of Unreasonable Rocket), a rocket stage capable of significant performance with an incredibly low turnaround time/cost.

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The reality is that even with a fully intact first stage recovery, there will be significant processing required to refurb or requalify the stage for reflight.
No, that is probably how it'd be at first, but it is most certainly NOT an inevitable or final state. DC-X(A) also had about a 24-hour turnaround time, and it had considerable performance as well (might be more comparable to what SpaceX is doing, since DC-X had RL-10 engines, which are relatively high-performance, pump-fed engines instead of the simpler pressure-fed engines of the Lunar Lander Challenge). If you design everything so that refurb and requalification is a firm requirement before every flight, you're shooting yourself in the foot. Imagine if airliners were designed in that manner...

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It remains to be seen if the cost of preparing an intact stage for reflight would be more or less than the cost of integrating a new stage, or re-using portions of the recovered stage to fit out an incoming set of tankage and structure.

Recovering the stage is just one incremental step along the path to a reusable launch vehicle that would be operationally similar to an airliner.  It would be a big step forward, but only a step along a path to a reusable system.
Remember, all these engines (and I think all the stages, too) are test-fired beforehand already, sometimes for a full duration at McGregor. The conditions there aren't too different (for the first stage, at least) as if they had launched and landed on legs. I fully expect them to disassemble and refurbish the first stage the first several times they reuse them, but I don't think that it's a foregone conclusion that they will do that every time, ESPECIALLY for the first stage.
« Last Edit: 10/11/2011 02:39 PM by Robotbeat »
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

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Offline corneliussulla

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Re: Falcon 9 Reusable Payload to LEO
« Reply #10 on: 10/11/2011 04:39 PM »
Jim tourists. Let's face it there is almost nothing to do in space that adds any value. however reducing launch costs may make solar power station in orbit a proposition.

Offline Jim

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Re: Falcon 9 Reusable Payload to LEO
« Reply #11 on: 10/11/2011 04:45 PM »
however reducing launch costs may make solar power station in orbit a proposition.

Desert will always be cheaper.

Offline baldusi

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Re: Falcon 9 Reusable Payload to LEO
« Reply #12 on: 10/11/2011 05:06 PM »
For instance at 10.1 reduction in falcon 9 extended version could mean around 6 mill for 16 tonnes to orbit. I could easily imagine a Market for a vehicle to launch 20 people into orbit at a time for 300,000 dollars a piece. 100.1 would bring a ticket price down to 30,000 a ticket
16 tonnes would have been without the recovery hardware. After recovery, they will be lucky to get 10tonnes. BTW, a 10:1 reduction would but them at 6M. That would mean that the hardware should be usable for what, 20, 30 times? How much for the refurbishing of the engines?
But let's get back to it. Just the insurance, is usually 10% (Ariane 5) to 15% percent (SpaceX). And I wouldn't be surprised if the Range would be on the order of a 5%. There are lot's of "little things" that you can't slash in big budgets, that make order of magnitude changes impossible. I'm sure there's at least, a 10% to 20% of costs that are impossible to lower unless you fly hundreds of times per year. And would probably imply a private range (good luck with that this half of the century).
They have stated that a Cargo Dragon costs 133M. If you want to send people, and assuming that they can get the same cost, and that everything is returnable. You might get to 4:1 cost. That would be an astounding, but remotely possible, cost cutting. That's 33M for seven people. One is the pilot, so you'd have six passengers. That's 5.5M per passenger. Plus fees and such, say 6M per trip. That's a lot less of what NASA currently pays. But how much market you think there's at those numbers? And they would do what? orbit for a couple of hours? You'd need a bathroom for more than a few hours. And at least a year of training. Who can pay 6M AND take a sabbatical year?

Offline Patchouli

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Re: Falcon 9 Reusable Payload to LEO
« Reply #13 on: 10/11/2011 05:25 PM »

16 tonnes would have been without the recovery hardware. After recovery, they will be lucky to get 10tonnes. BTW, a 10:1 reduction would but them at 6M. That would mean that the hardware should be usable for what, 20, 30 times? How much for the refurbishing of the engines?


On loss of payload it depends where the mass is 4 tons extra on the first stage does not necessary mean you lost four tons of payload.

Here you'll probably only lose 1 ton of payload.
This is why the Saturn I still worked well despite have a somewhat inefficient first stage design.

The second stage how ever is a different story ton of extra mass is a ton of lost payload.
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Plus fees and such, say 6M per trip. That's a lot less of what NASA currently pays. But how much market you think there's at those numbers? And they would do what? orbit for a couple of hours? You'd need a bathroom for more than a few hours. And at least a year of training. Who can pay 6M AND take a sabbatical year?
On training you're using the RSA a government entity as an example which is literally going to cosmonaut school no commercial entity is going to be like that unless they're hiring you.

In reality a passenger should only need a hundred hours of instruction and this could be done on weekends or after work.
At worst it should be similar to getting a private pilot's license plus having to ride the vomit comet and a centrifuge.
For insurance there may be instruction on how to escape a flooded vehicle.

« Last Edit: 10/11/2011 05:39 PM by Patchouli »

Offline corneliussulla

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Re: Falcon 9 Reusable Payload to LEO
« Reply #14 on: 10/11/2011 06:05 PM »
Why do u need a years training. After all the passengers are dead weight. If costs are reduced for launch there maybe a Market at less than 1,000,000 dollars for tourism to do that you need to lauch more than 6 people but that could be done with a new vehicle.

I do agree with you that there are a number of fixed costs. But if flying once a week with a fleet of say 4 reusable falcon 9s it should be possible to bring these down. In ELon musk presentation he talks about launch costs around 1,000,000 bucks. But I am sure this is a low ball estimate. Hopefully can do better than 4.1. Yet Evan that would be a big step forward but might not be low enough to get tourism thing going.

I agree that it is a big ask but at least someone is trying.

People think it will be hard to relaunch in a fast reliable manner. But aircraft are incredibly complex devices yet they turn around in 30 mins. In fact in many ways jets are more complex than rockets.

Offline Jim

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Re: Falcon 9 Reusable Payload to LEO
« Reply #15 on: 10/11/2011 06:24 PM »
In fact in many ways jets are more complex than rockets.

You don't know what you are talking about. 

Offline Jason1701

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Re: Falcon 9 Reusable Payload to LEO
« Reply #16 on: 10/11/2011 06:39 PM »
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A 747-400 has six million parts

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the [Saturn V] contained three million parts

Offline baldusi

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Re: Falcon 9 Reusable Payload to LEO
« Reply #17 on: 10/11/2011 06:45 PM »
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A 747-400 has six million parts

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the [Saturn V] contained three million parts
1) How many of those parts are actual flight parts, and how many are for passenger comfort (please include actual environmental control).
2) How many of those parts are working to the limit of their design limits?
3) What are the security margins on those parts?

They might be more "complex" from a part count of view. But from the margin to catastrophic failure there's simply no comparison.

Offline Jim

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Re: Falcon 9 Reusable Payload to LEO
« Reply #18 on: 10/11/2011 06:48 PM »
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A 747-400 has six million parts

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the [Saturn V] contained three million parts

part count is a minor part of the issue.

Offline baldusi

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Re: Falcon 9 Reusable Payload to LEO
« Reply #19 on: 10/11/2011 06:57 PM »
I do agree with you that there are a number of fixed costs. But if flying once a week with a fleet of say 4 reusable falcon 9s it should be possible to bring these down. In ELon musk presentation he talks about launch costs around 1,000,000 bucks. But I am sure this is a low ball estimate. Hopefully can do better than 4.1.
Flying once a week would mean 52 launches, per six passengers. Let's round it to 300 passengers. Stop for a moment to think about it. What price do you think you'd have to set to get 300 passengers per year, year over year, for an eight hour experience? I seriously doubt that anything above 100k, and I'm being an optimist. But let's say 1M (that's at least an order of magnitude more than what I would expect to be reasonable). That's 300M of revenue. Or close to two Cargo Dragon. Elon stated that he could keep his pricing with at least 10 launches per year, half of them FH. That's close to 1B. If you could get the cost to a more reasonable (for 300 passengers/yr) of 100k/pax. That would be 30M in revenue. That's what they get from achieving six milestones under COTS.
There's simply too much disparity between what people would pay, and what it currently costs. And when I said 4:1 cost reduction, I said it was a ponies and unicorns scenario. The possible cost reduction, if this works, would be closer to 50%. Which would be an amazing achievement, and yet keep the two to three orders of magnitude on price differential for the tourist market to really explode.

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